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Education
Coronavirus news and updates about the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

CMS Corrects COVID-19 Data Errors As It Prepares For Students' Return

Empty classroom CMS 2.jpg
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is trying to iron out errors in its COVID-19 data dashboard even as officials assure families that schools are ready to bring students back.

Early in Tuesday’s board meeting, CMS parent Stacy Staggs told the board the dashboard is lacking.

“I can’t say that I’m clear, or that enough information is provided, or that I have confidence in the accuracy of that information,” said Staggs, who says she’s worried about the safety of in-person classes.

Shortly after Staggs spoke, CMS acknowledged errors in the report it had posted the day before. Chief School Performance Officer Kathy Elling reported that CMS had inadvertently posted a two-week tally of COVID-19 cases among employees. The real total for the previous week should be 10, not 18 she said.

And she said CMS incorrectly posted that at least 10 schools have had 25 or more people under quarantine in the past 14 days. It should have said zero, she said.

“This was our error in coding,” Elling told the board. She showed a slide that reflected that, but the public version still showed the higher tally on Wednesday.

Elling noted that CMS has no clusters — defined by the state as five or more COVID-19 cases that appear to be tied to a school — and “we have less than 15 individuals at one particular location that are quarantined.”

The dashboard is supposed to provide public information about how ready the district’s 175 schools are for in-person classes. About 1,100 students with disabilities went back Sept. 29 and about 1,500 prekindergarten students returned this week.

Most of the district’s 140,000 K-12 students are learning from home and will return between Nov. 2 and mid-January.

CMS has been revising and explaining since it posted the first public dashboard Oct. 2, showing one case of COVID-19 out of 145,616 students. Officials later said they are only tracking the students who are attending in person – 1,073 during the first week – and have not explained where the higher number comes from.

Board members asked Elling to carefully explain the dashboard at Tuesday’s meeting. Chair Elyse Dashew said she may ask for that to be repeated at future public meetings because of confusion. Members also asked for more details to be added.

Elling said the district will start reporting cases by school or other workplace, such as central offices or transportation depots, but she didn’t say when.

Elling said CMS still has 37 school nurse vacancies but has hired 51 “nurse extenders” who are starting as early as this week to fill the gaps.

Superintendent Earnest Winston said the district continues working on issues such as inside air quality and air flow in schools. He said the district has “just over 20 teacher vacancies” out of approximately 9,000 teachers, 16 vacancies in transportation and 30 custodian jobs that need to be filled.

“Our schools are ready to welcome students and staff, and I can say that with confidence because since early August we have had staff in all of our facilities,” Winston said. “We know we are not immune to the effects of COVID, but as our metrics indicate, our processes and procedures are working.”

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